Trial of brothers accused of ballpark slaying expected to go to jury for second time today
Published: October 25, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - The government's case against two brothers accused of beating a man to death in Frydenhoj ballpark in 2010 survived repeated motions for dismissal during the last two days and should go to a jury for deliberations this morning.
As the second trial for brothers Curdilius and Gaius Moncherry drew to a close Wednesday evening, attorneys on both sides recapped their arguments about whether the brothers acted in self-defense or in retaliation.
The Moncherry brothers' first trial ended in August with a mistrial after the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision.
Assistant Attorney General Edward Veronda argued the Moncherry brothers murdered Kerwin Williams by beating him with a bat and a 2-by-4 after Williams slashed Curdilius Moncherry's neck with a knife.
"To paraphrase Jay-Z: People can lie, but the evidence doesn't," Veronda said.
He said the time line of the altercation between Williams and the brothers was crucial. He said the defense had attempted to compress a two-minute incident into five seconds.
The time line became critical earlier in the day, too, when Judge Brenda Hollar was considering a renewed defense motion to dismiss the charges against the brothers for a lack of evidence.
"I don't know how you've proven it was not self-defense," Hollar told prosecutors, referring specifically to testimony earlier in the day from Curdilius Moncherry, who said he believed his life was in danger after Williams attacked him. "The crux of the case is now before me."
After putting forth several arguments that the judge swatted away, Assistant Attorney General Quincy McRae said the prosecution viewed the fight as breaking in two halves. In the first half, right after Williams cut Curdilius Moncherry, the brothers may have been justified in self-defense. But once Williams turned to flee - a fact attested to by eyewitnesses and medical evidence showing the fatal blow to Williams was landed on the back of his head - Williams became a victim, not an aggressor, McRae argued.
The judge eventually allowed the case to proceed and, in his closing argument, Veronda echoed an aphorism he raised at the end of the brothers' first trial.
"Only the guilty flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion," Veronda said.
The prosecutor argued the brothers' actions following the fight with Williams - they fled to Tortola on a private boat, attempting to reach their native St. Lucia - leads to one of two conclusions: Either Curdilius Moncherry's wound was not as life-threatening as the defense made it out to be, thereby negating their self-defense argument, or the brothers knew that they had done something from which they needed to flee.
Veronda cast a number of the defense's positions as similar dualisms. The defense originally had criticized the Attorney General's Office for saving one of its witnesses from deportation so he could testify in the trial, only to turn around and criticize the Office for allowing the witness to be deported after giving his testimony, he said.
"We're damned if we do, damned if we don't," Veronda said.
The Moncherrys' attorneys countered that the brothers were justified in defending themselves from a man they knew to be violent in the wake of a near-fatal attack on Curdilius Moncherry.
"Once your neck is sliced, for heaven's sake, you have the right to do something," Paula Norkaitis, the attorney for Curdilius Moncherry, said.
Leigh Goldman, appointed counsel for Gaius Moncherry, said the defendants were not denying that they struck Williams "hard enough to kill him."
"We make no bones about it," Goldman said. "But Gaius came in to save the life of his brother and for no other reason."
Goldman argued that the fight between Williams and the brothers happened so fast that it would have been impossible for Williams to turn from aggressor to victim - or for the brothers to have flipped from defending themselves to seeking retaliation - within the span of seconds.
"These are momentary decisions," Goldman said. "These aren't men who had murder on their minds. This was a hot, quick, deadly fight."
He explained the brothers' decision to flee St. Thomas in terms of a soldier "down and shell-shocked" on the battlefield.
"What do they say?" Goldman said. "I want to go home."
Over objections from Veronda, Goldman said the government was punishing the brothers for surviving an attempt on their lives by Williams.
"Instead, they put them in cages for surviving that fight," Goldman said. "They've been sitting in a cage waiting for this day on charges that never should have been brought."
Hollar said she intended to give the jury instructions this morning at 9 a.m. before allowing them to begin deliberating on a verdict.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.